There's been a lot of buzz about the movie 'Escape From Tomorrow' but its been more about its production than its actual content.
'Escape From Tomorrow' was filmed illegally at Disneyland and Disney World without the theme parks' consent; the cast and crew filmed covertly, with the actors reading scripts off iPhones, and the film shoots were planned out in painstaking detail for maximum coverage whilst going undetected.
The behind-the-scenes story made national news, giving 'Escape' some big coverage at Sundance, but many wondered if legal action would sideline the movie. But in a shrewd move, Disney has remained completely silent on 'Escape', seemingly not wishing to give it any added publicity that might occur from a lawsuit.
When a film has such a big gimmick as a marketing device, one wonders if the film will play second banana to the conceit. And ultimately 'Escape From Tomorrow' succeeds on its own merits, but it's misidentified as a 'horror' film.
The plot revolved around the White family's trip to Disney World, which is about to wrap up on a sour note. The father Jim (Roy Abramsohn) gets a call from his boss, informing him that he's been laid off.
Jim keeps his family in the dark about the firing, but its clear their relationship is already in decline. The son has a malevolent attitude with Jim, and his wife Emily (Elena Schuber) treats him like an overgrown child, constantly vocalizing her disapproval with seemingly every move he makes.
Things get worse when Jim begins hallucinating during the theme park rides. In particular, 'It's A Small World', where the sweet cherubic animatronic figures begin making demonic faces.
In addition to these hallucinations, Jim begins acting inappropriately; getting drunk, leering at two young French teenage girls, and appearing to have an unhinged mid-life crisis.
'Escape From Tomorrow' turns into a surreal version of National Lampoon's 'Vacation.' Jim acts like Clark Griswold having a psychotic breakdown, and his comedic timing ultimately makes the movie more funny than scary.
'Escape' is full of surreal set pieces that occur all over the Magic Kingdom, where he's tempted by lust and frightened by losing his grip on reality.
It's unfortunate that once the 'big reveal' occurs in the film, it's from an actor with a thick French accent, making it very hard to understand. But one wonders if that is the point.
The movie asks more questions than it answers and has a true head-scratcher of an ending.
'Tomorrow' is directed by Randy Moore, who visited the park as child during his parent's divorce and clearly has divisive feelings of both nostalgia and unease about the park and this frames the film.
The choice of shooting the movie in black and white is a smart one, as it sucks out all the technicolor wonder and sun-dappled charm from Disney World, and gives it a ghostly, surreal feel.
There will be much debate on the nebulous plot of the film, which has a making-it-up-as-they-go-along feel. Some will feel cheated by this. But for a darkly comic take on America's favorite theme park, 'Escape From Tomorrow' is worth a viewing for those who find unease in squeaky-clean environments. Just don't expect it to make a whole of sense.
It's safe to say you've never seen Disney World like this before (and yes, Mickey Mouse does make an appearance.)
It's a dark world after all.